Brett happens

All wine, most of the time

Posts Tagged ‘Inexpensive

Bargain Branco

leave a comment »

Dão 2016, Indigena, Adega de Penalva ($11.25, 12728904)
A blend of Encruzado (40%), Cerceal Branco (30%) and Malvasia Fina (30%) from vines rooted in sandy soil over schist and granite. Farming is sustainable converting to organic. Manually harvested. The more aromatic varieties are macerated overnight. After pressing, the juice is fermented in stainless steel tanks and bottled early in the year following the vintage. Reducing sugar: <1.2 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Wafting, aromatic nose of pear compote, white spice, white flowers, chalk and a little sap. In the mouth, it’s unctuous but not heavy, redolent of white orchard fruit, white grape juice and eventually citrus. At first you wonder whether the wine isn’t too soft but as it breathes and your palate adjusts, the unaggressive acidity and thin vein of quartzy minerals form a definite if pliant backbone. A thin thread of bitterness runs throughout and is joined by a faint honey note on the dry finish. Gains presence as it warms from fridge temperature, so don’t serve it too cold. The price is unbelievably low for a wine of this quality and character. Some might enjoy this as an aperitif, though I tend to like a sharper white in that role. Seems like a natural for simply prepared cod or soft Portuguese cheeses. (Buy again? Sure.)

Written by carswell

September 23, 2017 at 12:14

A double dose of Tempranillo Blanco

leave a comment »

Grape vines are prone to mutating and winemakers prone to taking advantage of the results. One not uncommon example is red grape vines that mutate into white grape vines. Henri Gouges has a famous row of white Pinot Noir vines, propagated from an offshoot discovered in the 1940s, whose white berries are vinified to make a blanc de blancs (as opposed to a blanc de noirs, a white wine made from red grapes by minimizing the juice’s contact with the pigments in the skins). Tempranillo Blanco, a white mutation of Spain’s iconic red grape, was discovered in 1998 in Rioja Baja. (A grey-berried mutation called Tempranillo Royo or Tempranillo Gris has also been found in Toro.) After several years’ work to stabilize the variety, Tempranillo Blanco was authorized for use in white Rioja in 2004. Under the appellation rules, the grape can be used on its own or in blends, with Viura (aka Macabeo) generally considered the best blending partner. Two monovarietal Tempranillos recently showed up at the SAQ and we gave them a try.

Rioja 2016, Alto Cantabria, Inspiración, Valdemar ($19.90, 12591821)
100% Tempranillo Blanco sourced from the Alto Cantabria estate. The estate claims this was the first wine made from the grape; Jancis Robinson’s Wine Grapes says that honour goes to Ijalba. Fermented and matured on the lees in temperature-controlled (16°C) stainless steel tanks. Reducing sugar: 1.4 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Oneo.
Odd but not unappealing nose of “cotton candy,” “peanuts,” “salty bread,” “Bazooka gum” and apple. Medium- to full-bodied. Dry but ripe-fruity (pear and pineapple), even juicy, with a salty mineral undercurrent and just enough acidity. Tasters note “tea tree” and “cucumber” on the sustained finish. Clean, savoury and involving, delivering a mouthful of flavour for under 20 bucks. Several around the table said they intended to buy this. (Buy again? Sure.)

Rioja 2016, Tempranillo Blanco, Edición Limitada, Rioja Vega ($22.50, 12489157)
100% Tempranillo Blanco. After alcoholic fermentation, the wine spent six months on the fine lees in French oak barrels. Reducing sugar: 1.4 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Importation Épicurienne.
Minerals, apple, ash and preserved lemon mark the nose. In the mouth, it’s full-bodied, rich and round. The fruit tends to white pear and apple with tropical and citrus overtones. The oak adds spice but also calls attention to itself, especially on the long finish. Not exactly refreshing and probably best thought of as a food wine, though fans of big, New Worldish wines might feel differently. (Buy again? Unlikely.)

MWG July 27th tasting: flight 3 of 7

Written by carswell

September 17, 2017 at 12:58

Cidereal

leave a comment »

Located in Franklin, Quebec, and founded in 2010, Entre Pierre et Terre is run by the husband and wife team of Loïc Chanut and Michelle Boyer. An oenologist by training, Chanut began working at La Face cachée de la pomme and for a while was a partner in Domaine des Salamandres. Production is limited to a range of still and sparkling apple and pear ciders, still fruit wine and apple-based vermouth. Cortland, Golden Russet and Macintosh are the estate’s backbone apple varieties though trials are being conducted with others, including some old northern French varieties. All the sparklers are made using the traditional method.

Poiré mousseux, Entre Pierre et Terre ($19.95, 12120579)
A pear cider made from mid-season fruit. The juice takes several weeks to ferment. Matured and sparkled in the bottle for a minimum of nine months. Sulphur use is limited to a small shot at disgorging. Reducing sugar: 27 g/l. 7% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Applesauce, pear compote and hay stubble. Fine effervescence. The flavour is clearly though not intensely pear, with a bit of white pepper adding intrigue. Clean and verging on off-dry but drying on the finish. While it’s a tad sweeter than I remember earlier bottles being, it’s still a pleasant sipper. (Buy again? Sure.)

Cidre mousseux, Entre Pierre et Terre ($18.90, 11957043)
The apples for this cider are harvested over two months, then pressed together. The juice is concentrated by exposure to the cold of winter. Primary and secondary fermentation (the latter in bottles on lattes) last a minimum of 10 months. Reducing sugar: 18 g/l. 7.6% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
A nose more subtle than the poiré’s: green pear and apple. Dryish and elegant in the mouth, the effervescence understated. A mineral streak joins the savoury fruit joined while smooth acidity keeps things lively. Clean finishes. (Buy again? Sure.)

Cidre à la canneberge, Entre Pierre et Terre ($16.25, 12030291)
Cranberries are macerated in the cider before bottling. The bottles spend at least nine months on lattes before disgorging. 8% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Fresh and baked apple, wild red berries and a hint of cheese. Clean and not especially fruity. Dry with bright, even trenchant acidity. A faint saline undertow lasts well into the long finish. Somewhat to my surprise, the most complex and nuanced of the trio. Would make an excellent Thanksgiving aperitif and could probably continue right on through the meal. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG July 27th tasting: flight 1 of 7

Written by carswell

September 11, 2017 at 14:26

Cook’s Chard

leave a comment »

The latest installment in the ongoing search for a white wine that’s affordable enough for cooking and good enough for the cook to sip while doing the mise en place.

Côtes de Gascogne 2016, Chardonnay, Domaine La Hitaire ($10.20, 12699031)
The estate’s 110 hectares of vineyards are located in the hills around Eauze, capital of the Bas-Armagnac region in the Gers department. (The producer also makes armagnac under the Château du Tariquet label.) Technical information for this wine appears to be non-existent and there’s probably a reason for that. This much is clear: it’s 100% Chardonnay and part of the wine is matured in French oak barrels. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: 3.3 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Mosaiq.
Pleasant nose of subtle tropical fruit, lemon, chalk and a hint of green. On the lighter side of medium-bodied. Round and fruity (though not exuberantly) on the attack, drying as it moves through the mouth. A dusting of minerals adds interest while hints of vanilla and a touch of bitterness colour the peach-scented finish. Not particularly deep, long or memorable but fresh and fluid – not galpumphing – and it doesn’t taste industrial. (Buy again? Sure though not in preference to its cheaper, fresher, more characterful Les Tours sibling).

Written by carswell

September 8, 2017 at 13:41

QPR CDR

leave a comment »

Côtes du Rhône Villages Signargues 2016, Domaine La Montagnette ($16.40, 11095949)
The grapes are grown by the estate’s owner but vinified, bottled and marketed by the small Vignerons d’Estézargues cooperative. This blend of Grenache (70%), Syrah (20%) and Carignan and Mourvèdre (together 10%) comes from vines grown in clay soil with the smooth stones typical of the former Rhône riverbed. Practices in the vineyard are semi-organic, with chemicals being used only as a last resort. The vines are gobelet-trained and the grapes are picked by hand, destemmed, lightly crushed, fermented at low temperatures and given a long (three to four weeks) maceration. After pressing, the wine is transferred to large barrels for maturation. No additives, including yeasts, except a small amount of sulphur at bottling. Unfiltered and unfined. Reducing sugar: 2.7 g/l. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Delicious, Rhoney nose: red and black fruit (mainly berries), hints of black pepper, violet, spice, leather, leafmould and more. Medium-bodied. Heady but not hot, with a very fluid texture, ripe fruit and plenty of acidity. Light tannins provide an appealing rasp, dark minerals run throughout. A whiff of alcohol lifts the peppery finish while sandalwood and fruit cake linger. Other CDRs may have more depth but few offer this combination of savour, freshness, fleetness and price. A textbook, naturalistic CDR for $16.40, let alone the $14.65 it’s going for during the current promotion ($1 discount plus 750 Inspire points), this has QPR winner written all over it. (Buy again? For sure.)

Written by carswell

September 5, 2017 at 10:15

Eaten Back to Life launch

leave a comment »

Mo’ Wine Group stalwart, Weinplatz commander, occasional blogger and débauché hors pair, Jonah Campbell has just published his second collection of essays, Eaten Back to Life.

Though food is the titular topic, drink almost could be. Indeed, the essays “On Natural Wine, Punk Rock and Too-Easy Analogies” and “On Bad Melons, Bullshit, and the Emergent Qualities of Wine” are among the highlights of – and longest pieces in – the book.

The launch is tomorrow, August 17, at Drawn & Quarterly bookstore, between 7 and 9 p.m., with an after-party to be held at Alexandraplatz. Charcuterie from Boucherie Lawrence and wines from oenopole and Ward & associés will be served at the former; the Weinplatz cellar will be raided at the latter.

(And, yep, that Schueller 2007 Alsace Riesling Grand Cru Pfersigberg was something else.)

Written by carswell

August 16, 2017 at 11:02

It’s a white! It’s a red! It’s Brutal!!!

leave a comment »

Brutal!!! 2015, Partida Creus (ca. €10-15/$15-20 in Barcelona, importation valise)
Apparently, the wine is sin denominación, demoninationless. In any case, it’s a blend of several Catalan grape varieties (probably Vinyater, Subirat Parent, Xarel·lo, Cartoixa Vermell and Blanc de Sumoll) from biodynamically farmed vines planted in clayey-calareous soil. Manually harvested. The varieties are vinified separately and blended before bottling. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured seven months in stainless steel tanks. Unfiltered, unfined. No added sulphur. 11% ABV.

Cloudy pink to the eye. Spicy/funky nose of dough, distant sweet berries, “pink peppercorns” and an evanescing whiff of volatile acidity that one taster describes as “latex gloves.” A bit spritzy in the mouth. Lightly fruity and quite dry but tangy like “kambucha” and “hibiscus.” The tannins are light while the acidity is electric. So refreshing and drinkable and such energy! Like nothing else I’ve tasted yet also like an instant old friend. Wow. (Buy again? By the case.)

On the Raw Wine website, Partida Creus describes themselves thus: “We are winegrowers and winemakers in the Massis de Bonastre terroir of Catalunya, working with our own production of grapes and with rescued ancient vineyards with interesting native variety of grape. All the vines are organic farming, our organic and natural wines express the terroir with its variety typicity. We try to put in the bottles our deep respect and love for wild and Mediterranean landscape, nothing else. A tribute to nature and biodiversity, our work is a way of life making wine. Certified organic by CCPAE Consell catalá de la Producció Agraria Ecologica.”

Partida Creus is represented in Quebec by Vinealis. A Brutal inquiry to the agency’s prime mover, André Papineau, elicited the following reply: “Oui je bosse avec Partida Creus depuis presque 4 ans maintenant. Quantités confidentielles au départ et de bons volumes maintenant. Par contre le Brutal a longtemps été seulement disponible pour le Bar Brutal; il est un peu cher, se vendrait @ ± 36 $ la bouteille le carton de 6, alors j’hésite un peu. Par contre j’aurai beaucoup de différents vins en août : VN blanco et tinto, BN blanco, TN Tinto, et les grandes cuvées de Vinyater, Cartoixa Vermell, Xarel-lo. Toutes les bulles sont réservées pour le groupe Joe Beef…” [Yes, I’ve been working with Partida Creus for nearly four years. Tiny quantities at the start and good volumes now. However, the Brutal!!! was available only at the Bar Brutal [in Barcelona] for the longest time. It’s kind of expensive, going for around $36 a bottle, case of six, so I’m hesitant. On the other hand, I’ll have a bunch of other Partida Creus wines in August: VN blanco and rojo, BN (white), TN (red) and the top wines, made from Vinyater, Cartoixa Vermell and Xarel-lo. All the sparklers are reserved for the Joe Beef group…”]

MWG June 22nd tasting: flight 4 of 7

Dâo wow

leave a comment »

Dâo 2014, Quinta da Ponte Pedrinha ($18.25, 11895321)
Everyone seems to agree this contains Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo) and Jaen (aka Mencia); some add Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro to the mix. The vines, which are reportedly around 30 years old, are rooted in granitic soil. The manually harvested grapes are given extended maceration. Fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. Reducing sugar: 2.4 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Bergeron-les-vins.
Fresh nose of red and black fruit, spice, faint red and black licorice, distant tar and a whiff of barnyard. Medium-bodied and very dry. The flavourful, ripe-sweet fruit is nicely soured by bright acidity (the hallmark of a good Dâo) and framed by light but firm tannins that assert themselves on the finish. A complex of leather, dark minerals, tobacco, undergrowth and old wood flavours adds savour and lingers long. Classic, refreshing, straightforward and even elegant, this food-friendly wine illustrates why Dâo is my favourite Portuguese region for dry reds. The estate recommends chilling the wine to 16-18°C and I couldn’t agree more. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Written by carswell

July 18, 2017 at 12:21

Greek winery tour: Mercouri (Elis)

with one comment

[Hover over pics to display captions and credits; click to embiggen.]

In so many ways – historically, climatically, viticulturally, architecturally, culturally, even scenically – the Mercouri Estate stands apart from the other wineries we visited and quite possibly from all wineries in Greece.

Created in 1864 by merchant Theodoros Mercouri, the estate is one of the oldest in the country. Wine-growing began in 1870, when Refosco vines imported from northeast Italy, where Mercouri had trade ties, were planted. The resulting wine soon gained a reputation and was not only consumed locally but also exported on ships that docked at the estate. Such was its renown that the Refosco grape came to be called Mercoureiko in Elis (aka Ilia). New wine-making facilities were built in 1930. Production more or less ceased between World War II and 1985, when Vasilis and Christos Kanellakopoulos, the fourth generation of the family, began revitalizing the estate and its wines. These days, Vasilis’s two sons are taking the helm, Dimitris as the oenologist and Labis looking after the business and marketing side of things. To all appearances, the estate’s future is in good hands.

Set like an emerald on a small bay to the west of Korakochori, the estate enjoys a unique micro-climate. The Ionian Sea has a tempering effect and, as rain clouds in Greece tend to travel from west to east, the average annual precipitation and relative humidity are higher than in the rest of the Peloponnese, though paradoxically the summer and fall are drier than areas further east, a boon for grape health and harvest. The danger of frost is very low.

The mix of grape varieties grown in the 40 hectares of vineyards is as unparalleled as it is cosmopolitan, and includes the Greek Agiorgitiko, Assyrtiko, Avgoustiatis, Korinthiaki, Malvasia, Mavrodaphne, Rhoditis and Robola as well as the extra-Hellenic Mourvèdre, Negroamaro, Ribolla Gialla, Syrah and Viognier. The winery also reportedly has or has had experimental plots of Albariño, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Sangiovese and Sauvignon Blanc.

Several of the buildings, including ones still in use, are little changed from when they were constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many are built from local stone. Several have steeply pitched tiled roofs. Parts of the winery have been preserved as if in amber, with the original furnishings, paintings and equipment intact. Walking through the front door is like stepping back in time, a feeling only increased by a visit to the estate’s small museum with its collection of old presses, tools and photographs, among other things.

While Greece is rightly seen as a meeting place between the western and eastern Mediterranean cultures, the estate feels closer to the west than the east, seems to have one foot in Greece and the other foot in Italy. Take the grape varieties, for example. Take the now abandoned owner’s mansion, which is depicted on the label of the estate’s flagship reds and wouldn’t be out of place in Brindisi or Bari. The Italian feel even extends to the park-like grounds. With its lush foliage, huge trees, expanses of lawn, gentle inclines and pristine shore, the landscape is uniquely pastoral and bucolic.

However present the past may be at Mercouri, the wine-making is resolutely modern, which is not surprising for an estate that has been crafting wines from local and foreign varieties for close to a century and a half. Even the wine labels seem to express this embrace of new and old; the flagship dry whites, Lampadias rosé and Antares red feature reproductions of colourful stylized or abstract paintings; the flagship reds’ labels are far more traditional; the newer reds’ labels live in both eras, with modern typography and an old photograph of young members of the family.  The kicker is that all the bottlings, whether old or new and especially the reds, are among the most elegant Greek wines I’ve tasted.

You’ll find my notes on all the Mercouri wines after the jump. For details about where we stayed and ate and what we ate and saw, see the Day Three report on carswelliana.

INTRODUCTION
PAPAGIANNAKOS (ATTICA)
TSELEPOS (ARCADIA)
♦ MERCOURI (ELIS)
TETRAMYTHOS (ACHAEA)
THYMIOPOULOS (MACEDONIA)
ARGYROS (SANTORINI)

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by carswell

June 29, 2017 at 15:01

Barrel’s worth

leave a comment »

Located in Mirabel in the lower Laurentians and founded in 1993, Vignoble Négondos is one of Quebec’s more interesting producers of wines made from hybrid grapes. The winery is certified organic and has adopted a non-interventionist approach in the cellar: spontaneous fermentations, gravity feeds, clarification by settling, minimal if any filtration, and so on. The result is honest and enjoyable wines for which few if any excuses need be made. The winery’s most celebrated – and hard to procure – product is Julep, a world-class Seyval Blanc orange wine whose label and name wryly refer to Montreal’s iconic Gibeau Orange Julep drive-in and its signature drink.

Négondos wines can be purchased at the winery. A limited selection can be found in a few local food stores; contact the winery for details. Our bottles came from Loco and Dans la Côte respectively. Note that the prices vary depending on who’s doing the markup.

As usual, the wines were served double-blind to everyone except me. A few hints were provided: the wines were close-to identical blends from the same producer, the main difference being that one was matured in stainless steel tanks and the other in oak barrels.

Québec 2016, Suroît, Vignoble Négondos ($18.00-$20.00)
A blend of organically farmed Maréchal Foch, St. Croix, Frontenac and Marquette. The manually harvested grapes are fermented with indigenous yeasts at high temperatures. Sees only stainless steel until bottling. 12% ABV.
On first sniff, the Suroît’s nose prompts one taster to declare the wine “Ontarian.” My note reads: unsubtle gush of plum, almond, red meat, earth and eventually sweet spice. In the mouth, it’s fruity but dry, with an earthy backdrop. Light tannins and bright acidity provide a kind of balance and the finish is clean. That said, relief from the juicy onslaught and most especially nuance are in short supply. Probably best thought of as a food wine. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Québec 2015, Chesnaie, Vignoble Négondos ($20.00-$22.00)
This is the Suroît but with six months’ barrel ageing. 12% ABV.
“Wait. This can’t be Ontarian. Now I’m confused,” says the aforementioned taster. A nose far more complex and subtle: wafting plum with dill, spice, wood and “black tea” notes. In the mouth, it’s deeper, smoother and more fluid. Fine acidity and tannins structure the layered fruit, which takes on a savoury, even minerally edge that lasts through the credible finish. The difference between the two wines is astounding (a glass of the Chesnaie served double-blind a few days earlier had me guessing Austria or northern Italy) though how much of that is due to vintage and how much to barrel-ageing is a subject for future research. (Buy again? Yes indeed.)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 4 of 6

Written by carswell

June 21, 2017 at 12:14